A Warrior for Equal Rights

Photo of Rob Parke
Rob Parke (Photo / Courtesy of Rob Parke)

Rob Parke, USC Viterbi associate professor of information technology practice, recently won the 2021 Access Computing Capacity Building Award for his advocacy for people with disabilities.

For Rob Parke, B.S. CECS ’04, M.S. EE ’06 , childhood was often a struggle.

The associate professor of information technology practice at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or “brittle bones.” The painful condition, a collagen defect, weakens bones and causes acute pain.

For Parke, now 40, that has led to over 100 fractures and 25 surgeries to date, along with having to use a wheelchair for mobility.

Growing up, Parke spent a lot of time in hospitals or at home recovering from operations. Often isolated and alone, he found solace in computers. “Technology was for me sort of an equalizer,” he said. “It was something I could do, a way of learning and exploring when I couldn’t really move for a long time.”

That love of technology has only grown. So has Parke’s empathy for and support of people with disabilities as well as for other underrepresented and often marginalized groups. In recent years, Parke has found a way to fuse his affinity for technology with his commitment to inclusion: he has become a powerful advocate for making the field of computing welcoming and accessible to all.

Read more about Rob’s story